[Advaita-l] The concept of mAyA sItA

Anand Hudli anandhudli at hotmail.com
Wed Feb 19 06:54:28 CST 2014

I was chatting with some relatives of mine last weekend, who happen to be
mAdhvas, and the topic of mAyA sItA came up. It was pointed out that this
concept of mAyA sItA conflicts with the principle of eka-patnI-vrata (vow
to accept only one wife during his life) that rAma had chosen to follow.

>In many versions of the tale, the omniscient Rama knows about Sita's
>impending abduction and creates Maya Sita. Such versions assert Rama's
>divine status, a departure from Valmiki's portrayal of Rama as a human hero.
>[8] <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_Sita#cite_note-:2-8>.

If it is argued that rAma knew that rAvaNa would kidnap sItA and hence
proceeded to replace her with a mAyA sIta just before rAvaNa arrived,
it makes him accept someone other than the real sItA as his wife,
albeit temporarily. Also, when he later expressed his deep grief for
losing sItA, it makes him grieve for someone other than his wife sItA.

Perhaps, the only way out is the kUrma purANa story, where sItA
replaces herself with a mAyA version just before rAvAna's arrival to
rAma's dwelling in the forest and arranges for herself to emerge from
the agni parIkShA at the end of the war. And rAma has no knowledge
whatsoever that all this has taken place. However, this would mean
rAma was completely ignorant of this sItA-replacement and he thought
he had really lost her. While this explanation is fine and does
preserve rAma's eka-patnI-vrata, it is problematic for staunch
Vaishnavas who believe that rAma, being omniscient, could not have
been ignorant of such a secret. They are willing to sacrifice the
eka-patnI-vrata of rAma, a small price to pay for maintaining that
rAma had no ignorance of anything, especially considering his Krishna
avatAra when he had 16,000 wives.

Needless to say, I feel this is a strange position to accept. It must
also be clarified that mAdhvas do not consider the Valmiki Ramayana as
the original Ramayana. This status is given to the mUla rAmAyaNa,
which is no longer extant.


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